Rangers’ Deadline Acquisitions Playing a Profound Role

The New York Rangers are tied with the Carolina Hurricanes at 2-2 in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Thursday’s game will be another defining moment in the team’s quest for the Cup. The Rangers have four championships in franchise history and the Hurricanes have one (2006). But in order to bolster their postseason run against tough teams in the Eastern Conference, general manager Chris Drury bulked up on depth at the trade deadline.

Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, and Tyler Motte were, for the most part, overlooked pieces of their team, and Drury was able to snag them without dipping too much into his asset pool. They will all become unrestricted free agents this summer, but they have been bountiful successes so far and contributed almost immediately in the regular season.

Andrew Copp New York Rangers
Andrew Copp, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Now in playoff mode, there are higher expectations as the Rangers are experiencing some team-wide trouble with offense, and they’ve each scored one goal apiece in this series. The upside of the trio is that they can score, but they collectively also have the intangibles that are significant in the postseason.

Andrew Copp

Copp, the former Winnipeg Jet who can play both center and on the wing, was a necessary addition thanks to his versatility. Yet his value is even more evident in the way he is performing. The 27-year-old forward racked up 10 points in 11 games this postseason – five goals and five assists. Drury forked over a little more for Copp than he did for the other two pickups, but thus far, it has been well worth it. In exchange for Copp, the Jets received prospect Morgan Barron, two conditional second-round picks in the 2022 NHL Draft or 2023 NHL Draft and a fifth-round pick in 2023.

He is a fixture on the second line wing, where he also saw success during the regular season with 8 goals and 18 points in 16 games as a new Ranger. His play in Game 4 against the Hurricanes, a three-point night, helped the team tie the series before heading back to Carolina for Game 5 on Thursday.

He missed a pair of regular-season games due to injury but was able to assist his new team collect crucial points as the season came to an end. The Rangers finished second in the Metropolitan Division and were gifted home-ice advantage in their Round 1 series against the Pittsburgh Penguins when Copp scored four goals and three assists.

Against Carolina, he was held off the scoresheet for the first three games, but he is averaging 20 minutes a night and helps with faceoff draws – an area where the team has struggled – for a success rate of 44% in the postseason. It would be great to see Copp perform better in the dot since puck possession is critical in the playoffs.

Frank Vatrano

Vatrano, the first acquisition of the bunch, acquired from the Florida Panthers, has brought the shoot-first mentality the organization so desperately needed. It was a tiny price to pay for such an important return. Drury only coughed up a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, and Vatrano immediately jumped into the second line alongside Artemi Panarin and center Ryan Strome but was soon promoted to the top line with Chris Kreider and center Mika Zibanejad.

Frank Vatrano New York Rangers
Frank Vatrano, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Vatrano is the perfect complement to two veteran players on the top line. They have remained intact through the postseason, but during the regular season the 28-year-old put up 13 points in 22 games with his new team, including eight goals, five assists, and a plus-6 rating.

Related: Rangers Won’t Advance Past Hurricanes Without a Panarin Resurgence

He also stood out in games against division rivals, which allowed the Rangers to obtain those extra points in the Metropolitan. Vatrano is particularly good at finding the back of the Penguins’ net (in 16 career games he has 9 goals and 13 points), which helped give his team a unique and slight edge in their first-round series.

This postseason, he has registered seven points in 11 appearances – three goals and four points. The speedy sniper has tallied 27 shots through two rounds and threw 56 shots on net during the regular season. Vatrano is another key pickup the Blueshirts will look to for scoring as they continue their chase for the Cup.

Tyler Motte

The spark of the bottom six comes from forward Tyler Motte. Another deadline-deal robbery by Drury, Motte cost the franchise a mere fourth-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. In return, the Rangers got steady speed, physicality, and effective skating from the former Vancouver Canuck. He suffered an injury against the Penguins in the regular season and therefore only skated in nine regular-season games, but his absence impacted the Rangers, especially on the penalty kill. He earned his first point as a Ranger, an empty-net goal, in Game 3 against the Hurricanes.

Tyler Motte New York Rangers
Tyler Motte, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

All three skaters have been praised by the coaching staff, but Motte stands out. He was the finishing touch needed for the bottom six; it’s rare for a player to join a new team and elevate their existing core. In his minimal six Cup-contending games, he jumped right in when he returned from injury. Though he could not extend his point production from Game 3 to 4, he is looking steady in his performances.

Stronger depth was the goal with these trade deadline moves, and Drury more than nailed it. It will be another story when it comes to contract negotiations but, on the other hand, it is exciting to see what he will do at the 2022-23 deadline.

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